Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ANSWER TO AN OLD MAN'S PAEAN, by HORACE SMITH

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ANSWER TO AN OLD MAN'S PAEAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Thou greybeard gay! Whose muse
Last Line: Rice-milk, and water-gruel!
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Aging; Love; Muses

THOU greybeard gay! whose muse -- (perchance
In second childhood's ignorance,)
Inspired "An Old Man's Paean,"
Hear how a brother senior sings
Sexagenarian sufferings,
In strains antipodean!

Young, I could take a morning's sport;
Play matches in the Tennis Court,
So strong was I and plastic;
Dine out, and yet with spirit light
And body unfatigued, at night,
Could sport the toe fantastic.

Behold me now! -- my limbs are stiff:
An open door, an east-wind's whiff,
Brings sharp rheumatic touches;
A chamber-horse my only nag,
I mope at home, or slowly drag
My gouty feet on crutches.

Once I devoured whatever came,
And never knew, except by name,
The heartburn, bile, dyspepsy:
Now I must fast -- eat what I hate,
Or all my ailments aggravate,
From ache to epilepsy.

How starving Tantalus of old
Was punished by the gods, is told
In many a classic stanza;
And all must recollect the wand
That whisked the viands from the hand
Of hungry Sancho Panza: --

Their fate without their fault is mine.
Champagne and claret, drinks divine
As nectar or ambrosia,
I may not quaff, but -- (horrid bore!)
My sherry from a cruet pour
And think of past symposia.

At home my wife will supervise
Each meal I take. I wish her eyes
Were sometimes touched with blindness!
But no -- they move not from my plate:
God bless her! how I love, yet hate
Her ever watchful kindness.

"My dear! you know you're bilious -- pray
Avoid the turtle soup to-day,
And do not touch the salmon;
Just take a chicken wing, or leg,
But no rich sauce -- and let me beg
You will not taste the gammon."

Shell-fish -- of yore my favourite food,
Are now my bane; yet crabs eschew'd,
Might make an angel crabbed --
No wonder if I quit the treat
Of dainties that I may not eat,
Half starving and half rabid.

Debarred by fond affection's care
From all my palate yearns to share,
A kindness still more cruel
Gives me carte blanche in all I loathe --
Bread-puddings, sago, mutton-broth,
Rice-milk, and water-gruel!

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